Malaykah watched as he (Bässäm) tossed the coin into the water. At first, nothing happened, which caused him concern.
“Dammit, I hope the Ferry Man did not give me a counterfeit,” he screeched.
The water began to swirl in a whirlpool that snatched Bässäm and Malaykah down into the tide within a flash. Colors of blue sea water phased to grey, black, then finally blood red. The rapids were too fast for Malaykah to catch her breath. She thought that she would surely die a moment before the water receded. The pair faced each other as they lay on their sides on the cave’s floor.
Bässäm removed his helmet when he was confident they had reached their destination. He commanded Malaykah to get up, but she laid there despondent. She tried to suppress her whimpers but could not.
“I know you believe me to be a foul creature, and that is within your right. I took a chance in hopes that your divinity would outweigh your human weaknesses. Just as you survived the great fall and icy waters during the siege, this small test only proved Sӧlitha to be right about you,” he smirked.
Malaykah finally caught enough wind to calm her nerves. She thought about what Bässäm said and realized it was confirmed that her divinity kept her alive during her misadventures in the realm. The thought that she had super-abilities never once crossed her mind. Alëxios graciously tried to guide her in using her powers but never to test her limits. There was no way to tell how far Bässäm would go to push her.
Without further delay, Bässäm lifted Malaykah to her feet. She cowered in fear that he would strike her, but he shrugged it off and motioned for her to walk. He retrieved a longer coiled rope from his bag and tied it around both their waists. Then they scaled down a hole in the cave floor. He sent Malaykah first if there were some other obstacles that only a goddess could prevail from. Fortunately, there were none.
Bässäm grew nervous from the ominous silence, so he started a conversation knowing Malaykah would be less likely to reciprocate.
“Years ago, probably before you were even born, there were rumors of a Ferry Man who gave out special coins to those who sought the Oracle. I thought that the tale was an urban legend meant to scare the old and warn the young. There was never a time when I dared to learn the truth for myself. For one, I did not have the means or resources to commit to such a task. I am indebted to Sӧlitha for her bravery. In due course, we will have the Őrb. Everything will be sorted in the right direction from there,” he said.
Bässäm went silent once they reached the bottom of the hole. There was no light for miles around. Malaykah was far too worn out to conjure any kind of magic that would help her see, and she was not for sure it was a power she actually possessed. Bässäm took her by the arm and pulled her a bit further. They stopped at a wall that protruded out enough to block the rest of the passageway. Though she could not see, she felt him knock on the wall five times.
A bright fluorescent yellow light appeared in the distance. The thin frame of a woman with unkempt amethyst dreadlocks dressed in a raggedy white ball gown traveled to them. Sounds of sorrowful moans soon followed. Finally, the Banshee stopped, just three steps shy of Bässäm.
A menacing voice cried, “I am the great and powerful Mäüdräh. Who dares to disturb my rest?”
The voice echoed throughout the cave with a piercing force. First, Bässäm collapsed to his knees and trembled. Then, just as Mäüdräh was about to assault him, she saw that Malaykah was also there. They locked eyes for a split second. Then, Mäüdräh moved away from them and said, “Speak.”
Bässäm mustered enough courage to plead his case.
“Oh, wise Oracle, I have come to seek your wisdom. I am in dire need of a lost treasure. I entreat your support to know its specific whereabouts,” he said.
Mäüdräh looked back at Malaykah, who somehow lost the ability to be afraid at that moment.
“What say ye, Daughter of Oshun?” she asked with reverence.
Malaykah’s voice returned to her, though her throat still ached.
“This scumbag of a bastard selfishly seeks the Őrb. I don’t know what he plans to do with it, but that is why he brought me here to meet you,” she answered.
Mäüdräh cackled fiercely enough to wake the dead.
“I shall not hinder ye from what awaits such a soul as this. Travel east to the Tri-cities. There ye shall find two caves. Follow the signs that dictate the location of a key. Once ye find the key, unlock the vault within the second cave. The Ultimate Creator, Chrëst, placed the Őrb within the confines for safekeeping. Do not stray from the signs, lest ye contend with calamity.”
~Ch. 24, The Realm Beyond the Stars and Sea~